In a world where there is so much negativity, it is very easy to focus on all the things going wrong in our lives. Sensationalism and negativity sells and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the negative media hype. We don’t set out to have that focus, of course, this is not how we really want to live our lives, we want to be that person that sees the glass half full, that grabs life by the horns and wears a genuine smile on their face just because they really are that happy.
How can we become that person? A great way to start is by having an attitude of gratitude.
OK, I can hear your thoughts, “What kind of touchy-feely stuff is this guy talking about?” Well, trust me, this can really turn things around for you.
I was lucky enough to be brought up in a good home with parents who loved me and worked hard to provide my siblings and me with the best life they could give us, I was really lucky and blessed, of course, when I was a teenage boy I didn’t see it like that. That was all until I left to serve a two-year mission for my church in Kenya. One of the places I used to visit during my time in Kenya was called, Kibera. Kibera is just outside of the city centre of Nairobi and is the largest urban slum in Africa. When I walked those streets I saw the terrible way that the people residing there had to live. For instance, there were no toilets, never mind a sewage system and so they used to have to do their “business” in a plastic bag and discard of it in some way (sometimes by throwing it outside their window). After seeing how these wonderful people had to live I felt immensely grateful to my parents for the life they had afforded me. It changed the way I saw them, I had much more appreciation for what they had done for my family and when I returned home, I tried my best to show that to them, much to the shock of my parents. Just ask my father about the time I called him wise, he probably almost fell out of his chair.
Anyway, what I am trying to say is that just by focusing on those small things I was grateful for made a significant impact on my life. In fact, research has shown that people who are grateful are 25% happier. These people also tend to be more optimistic and to exercise more frequently. What a deal right? Research also found that gratitude should take the form of true gratefulness rather than comparative gratefulness, meaning you should not express your gratitude for being happier than someone else.
And in addition to improving mood, recent studies show that feeling and expressing gratitude leads to better physical health as well. Paul Mills, a Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, conducted studies that looked at the role of gratitude on heart health.
Among other things, he found that participants who kept a journal most days of the week, writing about 2-3 things they were grateful for (everything from appreciating their children to travel and good food), had reduced levels of inflammation and improved heart rhythm compared to people who did not write in a journal. And the journal-keepers also showed a decreased risk of heart disease after only 2 months of this new routine!
So try these ideas to form an attitude of gratitude:
- Start a gratitude journal – Express gratitude in this journal every night by noting the things that you are grateful for, proud of, and excited about. Write down 3 to 5 things that you are grateful for each day.
- Acknowledge yourself for what you have done and accomplished in the last day/week/month/year. Instead of comparing yourself to others, give yourself credit for the big and small things you have been doing!
- Acknowledge other people and thank them for inspiring/helping/supporting you – oftentimes people wait their whole lives to be acknowledged.
- Meditate for 5 minutes.
- Exercise for 30 minutes each day.
Try incorporating some of these ideas in your day and see how your life will change. It’s not that the world will change, it’s just that the way you see it will. Your perception and attitude will be one of finding the goodness around you, having a renewed vigour for life and for chasing after your dreams and passions. Once you start don’t give it up, keep doing it until it becomes a habit, it generally takes about 66 days to form a habit. It might be hard work in the beginning, but if you keep at it, I promise it will get easier with time until it becomes part of your daily routine.
There is so much to be grateful for. So much good around you, acknowledge it, embrace it, appreciate it, and develop an attitude of gratitude.